What’s Something I Can Learn or Do in 10 Minutes That Would Be Useful for the Rest of My Life?

Thanks to Robin B. in Boston, MA for this week’s topic:

What’s Something I Can Learn or Do in 10 Minutes That Would Be Useful for the Rest of My Life?

I’ve come across this question on the internet a few times before, and it always seems to bring out some great responses.


Tim’s Answer: Learn Gmail keyboard shortcuts.

Depending on your personality and whether email is a big part of your job, you probably spend somewhere between five and forty hours a week dealing with email. And gauging from the email addresses of Wait But Why readers who email me, I’d say that at least 80% of those reading this use Gmail.

I’ve been using Gmail for almost a decade, and the ten minutes I spent memorizing the major keyboard shortcuts right after I started my account is probably the best bang for the buck I’ve ever gotten out of ten minutes.

If you use Gmail a lot and you don’t use keyboard shortcuts, here’s what you should do:

1) Turn shortcuts on. Go to your Gmail settings, and under the General tab, select “Keyboard shortcuts on.” Reload the page.

2) Learn the shortcuts. Then, back at your inbox, press [Shift + ?], and all the shortcuts will come up (scroll down to see them all). Or check out this pdf. Test out the most relevant shortcuts and practice each one a few times.

3) Get in the habit of using shortcuts. Over the next few days, any time you’re about to use your mouse in Gmail, instead, press Shift + ? and remind yourself of what the keyboard shortcut is for what you were about to do. It’ll be an annoying three days and then the rest of your life will be better after that.

When I use Gmail (and Chrome, and OSX), I barely touch my mouse, and I’m incredibly quick with shortcuts, and it saves me a little time and effort hundreds of times per day. Trust me on this. Here are the most useful Gmail shortcuts to learn:

  • c to compose a new message, r to reply to just the sender, a to reply to all, f to forward, and when you’re ready to send, don’t click the send button like a 1997 person, press tab and then Enter (or command + Enter)
  • No matter where you are in Gmail, you can go to your inbox by pressing g then i. Replace the i with t, s, a, or l to go to Sent messages, Starred messages, All mail, or a Label, respectively.
  • When you’re looking at your inbox, use j and k to move up and down the messages, and press Enter, or O, to open the selected message. Once you’re in a message, you can use j and k to move through messages—j moves to the previous message and k moves to the next message.
  • When you’re in a conversation, p and n move up and down through messages within that thread.
  • To archive messages (and if you’re an “endless inbox” person instead of an “archive everything you’re done with and try to keep your inbox to zero or a small number” person, a good tip is to change who you are), you can either do it in a batch from the inbox view by moving through your inbox using j or k while pressing x to select messages you want to archive, and then pressing e to archive them all at once. Or you can do it as you go through your messages by going into a conversation and then pressing either k (move to next message and keep this one in the inbox because I need to deal with it later) or ] (move to the next message and archive this one because I’m done with it).
  • Use the weird ~ key to toggle between Primary, Social, and Promotions tab. While you’re in Promotions, say hi to the latest WBW email and then move it to Primary and click “yes” at the top of the page. Thanks.
  • Some more obscure ones that I still use all the time: / puts your cursor in the search field so you can search for something without using your mouse; q puts your cursor in the chat field; esc puts your cursor in a gchat box you have open, tab moves between gchats you have open, and shift+esc moves your cursor out of the gchat boxes; shift + u marks a message as unread, which you can do from the inbox (after pressing x to select the message) or when you’re in a message; command + shift + c/b to add a cc or bcc address when you’re composing a message.

You can sign up for the Dinner Table email list here to be notified about the new topic each week, and remember to submit future topic suggestions to table@waitbutwhy.com.

  • george of nazareth

    too bad I’m not using gmail.

  • Bednesti

    Learn how to properly tie a tie. :/

    • Sid W

      Additionally, it might be helpful to learn how to tie different knots. Based on your collar and face structure some knots will be better than others.

    • Eli Peter

      It bugs the crap out of me when I see guys keep a permaknot in their ties, only loosening them enough to take them off. (Granted, I used to be one of those guys as a teenager).

      You just have to find the right knot and practice it a few times.

  • Gold Skulltula Hunter

    Learn how to change a flat tire.

    • Jason Kay

      which then leads to how to change your tires (snow vs Summer)
      Which then in turn leads to changing from summer tires (called rain tires) to slicks for track events. It takes me less than a 1/2hr to change 4 tires, including un burying them in the garage and cleaning up.

  • dayum

    I found that using Inbox, the successor of Gmail, makes most of these shortcuts useless. It’s way more efficient in everything. You should try it. The only shortcut I still find useful there is z for reverting last action.

  • Ian Rothman

    Call someone you love and tell them how much they mean to you and why.

    • PRChica88

      best repsonse on ehere.

    • Vivid

      I find it very hard to do. Is this bad?
      May be I will call them when I am drunk. hehehe. :

  • Darius

    I guess the email is still used by some departments like front office for more formal communication but as for middle and back office I can confirm that the email is dead. Just read last week that some companies are considering banning the email communication between employees. Few examples:


  • Nick

    I would take 10 minutes to learn how to tie as many different knots as possible.

  • Fay

    Mac book shortcuts. After learning them, I wondered how I got this far in life using a PC.

  • Zab

    Examine your testicles.

  • Joseph King

    Learn how to fold an origami crane. Conversation piece for the rest of your life.

  • JLeigh

    Learn the basics of meditation.

  • Danilo Faria

    Learn speed reading, that will save you a LOT of time in the long run.

    This speed reading app is quite cool:

  • Vivante

    Learn how to build a fire without matches. Failed to learn it 60 years ago in Girl scouts and have regretted it ever since.

  • Isabella

    Learn how to build a fire! It’s amazing how many people don’t know how to do this, and talk about a potential life-saver (or, at the very least, a morale-booster).

  • galarant

    Learn how to properly pack a suitcase (hint: roll your clothes, don’t fold them!).


  • Jan Klusáček

    How to cook some meal you like.

    • DeeDee Massey

      …or one that you know other people will love, especially if you get really good at making it, or personalize the recipe in some way that they always look forward to having YOUR dish at gatherings.

      It doesn’t have to be a complicated dish; it can be as simple as a raw veggie salad. Things like deviled eggs, dips, and ambrosia salad are usually quite popular, very easy to make, and probably can be prepared in about 10 minutes. Just first make sure you’ve also followed the “learn how to properly wash your hands” advice given by other commenters. 🙂

  • The_Postindustrialist

    Honestly? all the REALLY good ones we already know. Learning to tie your shoelaces, for example. Or learning how to fold your laundry.

    Other things just take a lot of time, or are “ten minute a day” sort of things that you’ll continue to do for the rest of your life…

    If it’s one thing that I know a lot of people don’t know, and is extremely useful, it’s how to sharpen a knife using a simple whetstone. A sharp knife is incredibly useful in the kitchen (and out) and only take a few minutes to do.

  • Learn to count binary on 2 hands. Counting to 1023 is a more efficient use of your digits.

    The muscle movement for incrementing is the only thing you really need to learn, and isn’t that hard. Reading the end result just takes some time and computation.

    • jamaicanworm

      What happens when you reach the number 4 in public?

    • Jason Kay

      And that’s why I have a binary clock.

  • Jason Kay

    For non-city dwellers, learn defensive driving – aka how to drive on snow and ice.
    A) its fun
    B) it could save you expensive repair bills
    C) it may save your life

    • jfenbauer

      i learned by being told this: drive like you have eggshells under each peddle and you don’t want to break them. has served me well living in the midwest plains.

      • Jason Kay

        That is an excellent start – Turning off traction control and not being afraid of the handbrake are also excellent skills to have as well for “when it all goes wrong”
        Every new (or new to me) car I get I practice with in a snow-covered parking lot (like a school that is closed) so I get used to what the car is going to do… take less than 10 min. It has saved me many insurance claims and possibly my and my wife’s life.

        • jfenbauer

          admittedly i was told this in the 60s, before any of that fancy pants stuff you kids today have. (shaking cane from rocker on porch 🙂 ) and i still do a lot of driving of cars before ABS, front wheel drive, etc. i like your idea of practicing. plus it’s just fun to zip around empty lots in the snow.

  • Eli Peter

    Make an official Travel Cheat Sheet.

    I hate the stresses of travel. Too many small things to remember, all these nagging logistics that have to work out perfectly. This cheat sheet is a huge load off my mind.

    Things you might include:

    -A basic pack list in declining order of importance (a coworker had a good tip: the absolute most essential things you need are an I.D. and a credit card. If you forget literally everything else, you’re still okay).

    -A list of login and passwords for any travel services you might use (e.g. offsite airport parking, shuttle, hotel reservation sites, etc.)

    -A list of contingency plans in case your primary plans fall through. (e.g. you miss your shuttle, your flight gets cancelled, etc)

    • Eli Peter

      -A list of pre-trip chores to take care of: Line up a house sitter, make sure your credit card is paid off, make sure bills with upcoming due dates are paid, etc.

    • jasvisp

      One more thing, remember to actually put the clothes, you have so carefully organized, INTO the suitcase.

  • Sam

    Learn how to meditate / make it a monthly habit

    • Vivante

      Takes two minutes to learn, 1000 years to really master, but even as a beginner it will bring you 50 years of peace, a daily reminder of what it means to be a human and to be you.

  • em
    • Monica

      Yessss thankyou.

      Now to learn to efficiently chop carrots and other vegetables.

  • Douglas

    How to tie a tie

    I am in the school debate/forensic team and we are required to wear a tie for the guys. If I can actually learn how to tie a tie then I would probably save the next 3.5 years of embarrassment when I ask my teachers or classmates to tie my tie for me. Alright I guess its time to get out of my laziness and actually learn it right now.

    • Eli Peter

      It’s not that bad! You only have to learn one knot. Do it enough times, and it becomes as mindless as tying your shoes.

    • Mike

      Make it a Windsor! 😉

  • jasvisp

    I would think that if I could learn something in just 10 minutes which would be useful for the rest of my life, I would have learned it by now.

    • Vivante

      You must be very young or incredibly competent ! Can you really change a tire, chop an onion, make a fire without matches,tie a tie, cook a good meal? Congratulations!

      • jasvisp

        Why yes, yes I can…although my skill in starting a fire without matches has become a bit rusty. Those things I can do, and many others, because I am the opposite of ‘very young’. Remember, the objective here is to be able to learn something significant in TEN minutes. There are plenty of things I still want to learn but those skills will take alot more time than just 10 minutes.. Cheers!

        • Vivante

          I was impressed enough by your skills that I went back to your post again to re-read it and want to congratulate on having learned so much in your lifetime. I have lived a long time but have learned few practical skills (aside from parallel-parking and cooking delicious food I am definitely an unpractical person) and have always admired people who could do things such as picking a lock, replacing a spark pug,repairing a clock!

  • Adriana

    Learn to save a life through CPR or Heimlich maneuvre.

    • Jana Lenkiewicz

      10 minutes? That was an 8 hour course for me and I still don’t know if I would be comfortable trying – but of course I would if necessary. In addition, the techniques are constantly updated.

  • Superantígeno

    Write down your thoughts to clear your mind up.

  • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

    Pick a lock.

    • rish

      that would take quite a lot of time!

      • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

        Not if you have the right tools. I’ve opened doors with a credit card in under a minute. I’ve also opened car doors with a jimmy and started a car with a safety pin.

        But, I’ve never used a lock-picking tool. I would like to.

        • killer instinct

          Can you point me towards resources for learning lockpicking?

    • Борис Богданов

      Thanks for this, now I’m really obsessed with idea of learning
      lock-picking skills. Only problem is tools – they are hard to get in my

  • CT

    How to make a perfect biscuit,,not too dense, not too light – that perfect in-between biscuit that would hold lots of butter.

  • Noodles357

    Go outside and look at the night sky in complete silence

  • Kevzo

    Learn to tweet, and understand why it’s so popular (OK, that may take 11minutes).

    • Kieran Sproston

      or 140 characters

  • Jana Lenkiewicz

    Tie a bowline knot – comes in handy often. I would agree with the people who commented about tying anything – a tie, shoes, any knot, but after the ten minutes consistent practice is essential. Another thing, although I would expect that most people reading this already know them, I wish every American would take ten minutes and memorize where all the states are. If states are too easy, spend ten minutes looking at a globe and orienting yourself to your position in the world.

  • Brian Luptak

    Most people own a car, and most cars have problems. There never is a convenient time for a break-down. Tips to deal with a road-side emergency with your vehicle is worth taking time to learn.

    This could even mean taking 10 minutes to load your car with a first aid kit and thermal blanket, simple tools to fix tire flats and ductape for hose leaks, and the phone # of a mechanic you could call upon for guidance.

    Also, vehicle maintenance is complicated as an entire topic, but each subsystem of your car wouldn’t take much longer than 10 minutes to explain.

  • Matt

    Learn the ‘anti-poop-splash’ technique. Changed my life. You know when you’re on the toilet and it drops and you get a little bit of splash come up to touch you; it’s gross. If you place one or two squares in the water before sitting down, there will be no splash. A guy on YouTube from the channel “Smarter Everyday” made a video going into the science of it, good stuff and I reccomend. The video is on his frot page so it should’ve easy to find. Anyway, changed my day to day life.

    • M.B.

      Haha, I’ve actually been doing this since I was a kid! It never occurred to me that some people actually didn’t think about putting in a few squares of paper in there.. ever since that toilet water first splashed my butthole i’ve been doing it 🙂

      No offense intended btw – I just thought it was pretty funny.. I really thought everyone did that! I guess it falls well into the category of “do you stand or stay seated when whiping?” :’)

  • Dominic Nunes

    If you feel like taking this really far (I hate having to switch to my mouse) you can download the chrome extension Vimium. Hit ‘?’ once you’ve installed it, and it’ll show you all the new keyboard shortcuts you’ll have to use.

    • dimik

      Wow. I’m a big fan of shortcuts and hotkeys, but didn’t know this thing existed and it never occurred to me to search for such an extension. Thanks a lot.

  • Teri

    Talk to an elderly person about their life.

    • chendaddy

      You have to get really lucky and find the right ones to learn something in 10 minutes. Otherwise, I definitely recommend devoting much more than 10 minutes. They’ll appreciate the extra time, too, though.

  • Michael

    I’m disappointed that I can’t think of a single useful skill one could acquire in only 10 minutes.

  • Understand zero as a common physical/philosolphical reference point as space(time) energy(matter) information free nothing and use it to evaluate your personality and attributes relate to that reference point. It will be easier to understand that everything in our universe is positive and has certain value in proportion to zero. Just try to imagine anything smaller than zero as described 😉

  • Make my decisions as my knowledge and my subconscious suggest would be the best for me and the ones around me.

  • Start a positive brainwash on myself. I think about my positive attributes and how could I make them better, think about the negative one, understand where are they from, make sense that the ones who I learned it from had it hard too at some point and try to correct that negative attribute in my life.

  • nielmalan

    Learning to trigger the relaxation response by abdominal breathing. It’s portable stress relief!

    Just stand, sit or lie with a straight spine. Put a hand on the stomach, and breathe in. Let the stomach expand, not the chest. Feel the hand move away from the spine. Breathe out, feel the hand move towards the spine.

    Repeat until your 10 minutes are up.

    Use as necessary throughout your life.

    • P

      True. It triggers automatically once youve learned it

  • DrSuess

    Proper parallel parking technique!

  • Jonathan Wells

    Ten minutes: Learn to cut up a fresh pineapple into chunks. Someone gave me a tip to do it on a few sheets of newspaper, which soaks up some of the sticky juices, and when you’re done, you just wrap up the newspaper with all the pineapple trimmings and toss is in the compost or garbage, depending.
    Start by laying out some newspaper on a sturdy cutting surface that won’t move around.

    1. Twist off the top leaves all in one piece.
    2. Cut the pineapple into four quarters lengthwise (from top to bottom)
    3. Cut a bit of the fibrous central core away from each quarter.
    4. Make small cuts crosswise along the length of the quarters through the flesh, being careful not to cut through the skin. This is where you decide how big your pieces are. You can do one or two lengthwise cuts down the middle of each to divide each of your slices into smaller chunks.
    5. Using a small paring knife, or better yet a grapefruit knife, cut away the slices from the skin into a bowl or container.
    6. (Optional) Using your hands, squeeze the last of juice from the pineapple skin over the chunks.
    7. (Optional) Give yourself a homemade fruit acid treatment by rubbing the pineapple skin all over your face, flesh side against your skin. You will feel it tingling a bit. Let it sit for a while and then rinse it off with cool water. So clean! All natural! Exfoliated!
    8. Toss away all the skin pieces and the cores in the newspapers, or better yet put them in your compost.
    9. Enjoy your fresh pineapple immediately as is, use in a recipe of your choice, or squeeze some lime juice on it, cover it and keep it in the fridge.

    Ten seconds: The method to make sure you always meet palms when someone high-fives you is to simply watch their elbow as they high-five you. Do this and you will never have an awkward half-assed high-five again. It really works.

  • Enrique

    Learn how to save a life with Vinnie Jones singing Stayin’ Alive in less than two minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILxjxfB4zNk

    • Jason Kay

      That only took 1:44… what do we do with the other 8+ minutes?

  • Learn to make crêpes/pancakes. It’s ridiculously easy and the perfect thing to offer your darling as breakfast in bed. Add jam or cheese or anything that’s in the fridge for filler. You’ll earn a massive amount of bonus points 😉

    • Rainmaker

      If I had one :/

  • henkema22

    how to eat a kiwi keeping your hands clean and dry without a spoon : just after cutting it breadthwise cut it again lengthwise so you get 4 pieces. these you can eat keeping your fingers dry and also you will get almost all of the kiwi and not loosing a fair percentage to imperfect use of the spoon… just try it once and you will always come back doing it like this….

  • Stop and look around: – You are one from 7 billion but You are One for everyone. You are energy with consciousness. Your life is the result of a 13.8 billion years of cause and causality development governed by the Laws of Nature. Don´t waste this unik opportunity.

  • danbunda

    I prefer the kegels superpowers from the same reddit thread

  • Aaron Barbee

    Tying your shoes. When my oldest niece was 11 or so, my brother confessed that he only bought her slip-on shoes and struggles as she had gotten older to find them. I asked why and he said because she never learned how to tie her shoes. I shamed him for a few days about that – bad daddy 😉 – but then put my, then, 7-year-old son to work. He loves sharing and very quickly taught his cousin how to tie her shoes. Now she’s set for life. 🙂

  • Jamie McKie

    Get a good password mgmt app and use it properly – a few good free ones exist and with proper setup you have secure access to all your account details on all your devices and no longer use the same email address and password or small handful of passwords across the hundreds of accounts you no-doubt have 🙂

    Create a seriously complex passphrase to protect the encrypted DB file for it. Mine is almost 30 characters long, complex, non-dictionary and a bit mental, but I remember it with ease.

  • Biff Wonsley

    Tim, thanks for calling them messages and not emails. There’s no right or wrong here, but that always bugs me. I can’t defend it, but there we are.

  • Adam

    This doesn’t really apply to the “10 minutes” bit and “useful for the rest of my life” might be stretching it a bit, but every time I hear an interesting fact, I put it in a word document I have (commit to short term memory or jot it down if you can’t access the document immediately).

    Some can be good conversation starters, or in-depth topics you find fascinating (heck, why not add something about “What Makes You You?” or AGI or anything else from this site); others can be completely out of context pieces of trivia. Some might be good to share with close friends; others might be interesting regardless who you’re talking to, or useful in awkward pauses.

    Here’s a couple of random things from mine:·
    (1) 89% of emails sent are spam.
    (2) MIT invented a clock which runs away when you press the snooze button, so the next time it goes off, you have to get up to turn it off.
    (3) Statistically, the hardest words to guess in Hangman are: “jazz”, “buzz”, “fuzz”, “hajj” and “lynx”. (You could even start a game of Hangman and make a bet that you’re opponent won’t guess the word.)
    (4) Professor Seaborg gave plutonium the chemical symbol “Pu” as a joke (because it sounds like “poo”).

    (5) There is no year 0 in the calendar we use, so the 1st century started in 1 A.D. and the 21st century (or third millennium) started in 2001, not 2000.

  • lldemats

    Tough question. I suppose learning how to iron a shirt. I’m 60 and have ironed shirts before, but they always looked like shit and worse after than before. Even though I never plan to iron again, you never know when you might have to. I think I could learn how to not fuck it up in ten minutes.

  • mmKALLL

    Keep smiling!

  • Alex Mac

    For making passwords it is always very hard to remember them unless they’re a word or something simple ex 1234 to make a good password make it a sentence and even better throw in a few numbers or symbols that work with the sentence, ex I live on _____ street, house _, that is my address –> il_s,h_,tima the password right there is easy to remember but almost impossibl for someone to guess

    • ‘Learn to create yourself a good password’ is indeed a good 10-minute investment tip. However, any scheme you come up with yourself as a human is guaranteed to be flawed and never really secure, it’s essential you let a truly random process pick words for you (a dice, a cryptographically secure random number generator in your computer, …).

      I find the following methods to work to create great, unbreakable, rememberable passwords:
      http://world.std.com/~reinhold/diceware.html (5 words)

    • Joe C

      Or learn how to use a password manager like Lastpass and have super strong passwords all over the web that you never have to remember

      • Troy Holland

        Very true (I use LastPass myself), but Alex’s suggestion is still great for coming up with a master password to use with LastPass. You want this one to be as strong as possible.

  • Ymmitg

    Learn Roman Numerals. A high school teacher taught us that (it only takes about 10 mins to figure out) and I have used it many times over the past 20+ years. Roman numerals aren’t so critical that we all NEED to know them but are around enough that most of us wish we knew how to read them.

  • Ymmitg

    I shoulda said “over the past XXIV years” 😉

  • Shaltiel Quack

    Very basic self defense that can save your life.

    There are very simple actions you can do when attacked that will greatly lower the chance you will be harmed:
    * Make as much noise as possible, this can attract people near by and deter your attacker.
    * Try not to freeze – raise your hands and protect yourself. Although freezing is a natural mechanism that kicks in when we’re in stress, it’s essential to overcome it and make it hard for the attacker to hurt us.
    * When you must, hit the attacker and go for the vulnerabilities: the groin, the ears, the Adam’s apple, the eyes etc.

    These are just the basics. Always prefer to get away from an aggressive situation rather than trying to fight your way out of it – If possible, run away. If you can’t run away, these actions might save your life.

  • jfenbauer

    level 1 archaeological survey technique. and you’ll never look at the ground the same way again.

    hint: it’s all about depth perception and focus, but the first time try to go with a real archaeologist so you know what you have found. and always get permission from the land owner.

  • Big Dan

    Learn the Five Mother Sauces of classical cooking… http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/sauces/tp/Mother-Sauces.htm

  • Miriam S.

    Stephen King’s “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes” http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/2015/02/24/stephen-king-everything-you-need-to-know-about-writing-successfully/

  • lulutastic

    Get measured to find out your true bra size!

    • Gray Panther

      Good one. Many women spend years running around wearing ill-fitting bras. Stores like Dillards, Macy’s, Nordstroms, etc. have on staff women who are well-versed on how to properly fit one in a bra & it makes a world of difference.

  • Lizzie

    Memorize a handful of mnemonic devices for things you need to remember often, or that are just expected that adults know. As an example of the former, the phrase “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest” signals the order of streets in Seattle’s downtown grid, moving south to north (the first letter of each word is that of each pair of streets). I grew up here and still use it almost every day. For the latter, I think most adults would be expected to be able to name the planets of our solar system in order starting with the one closest to the sun. Or, as I learned in 4th grade, “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” (You know, before Pluto got demoted. I don’t know what the kids are learning in place of that these days.)

    • wobster109

      “. . . Served Us Nachos”. ^^
      Or you can go with xkcd’s version: http://xkcd.com/992/

  • Anna

    Learn how to tie shoelaces so that they do NOT untie themselves 🙂

    Or this is the one I use, it’s in Russian but the video’s self explanatory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLOEBMAOUxk

  • Karen Edgerton

    Learn how to read and compare food labels. Learn what a portion size is. Learn how to make soup and brown bag to work. Learn the foods to eliminate from your diet completely. See food as nutritional energy, not a sport.

  • Jeff

    Learn how to count to ten in another language. Good for things like reducing knee jerk reactions, as a sobriety test, an ice breaker, to decompress the moment you get shanked in traffic, avoid dumb english speaking people, and counting up to 10 of anything.

  • DeeDee Massey

    Get away from the light pollution of the city and learn the basics of navigating the night sky. At the very least, become able to orient yourself with the cardinal directions by locating the North Star, Polaris.

    Additionally, acquaint yourself with the Southern Cross, in the event you need to navigate while in the southern hemisphere.


  • wobster109

    How to make all-purpose stir fry. I know all these non-cooking people (let’s be honest: 20-something tech people), and it’s a bit unsettling to hear of their eating habits. I know a fellow who likes to eat potato chips whenever SO is out of town, another who orders pizza every night, another with a fridge full of just cheese sticks and ice cream. And it’s not just food preference either. They would happily prefer the cooked food, but the don’t know how to cook it.

    It’s really easy. Throw 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan, gather up whatever random vegetables you have, dice (or tear) into bite-size pieces, throw in the pan. Get a nice bottle of sauce that you like (soysauce, curry sauce, whatever) and add to the pan. Cover with lid. Stir occasionally. When the stuff in the pan isn’t raw anymore, you’re done! Fast and easy healthy food.

    • Gray Panther

      Great suggestion. One can also throw in any leftover steak, chicken or pork.

  • Zoraine

    Find your MBTI type.
    There are many quizzes online (I prefer http://www.16personalities.com) but I wouldn’t recommend only doing that. Use what the letters stand for (Extroversion/Introversion, iNtuitive/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving, although a lot of these words are misleading or confusing, so lots of research) to figure out if there’s one or two you think you might be able to go either way on. Look up profiles for all type candidates, and you’ll sympathize with many of them, but one usually most. Jungian Functions are really the best way, but those are a little convoluted and might take more than ten minutes.

    MBTI types have really helped me understand other people in a scientific way. Plus, it’s pretty revealing about yourself and your flaws.

    • Philipp

      that was actually a pretty cool test

    • Avery Brewer

      Don’t use the letters, use the functions! http://www.similarminds.com has a function-based test.

  • Bill Warren

    EASY! Find a WBW post you haven’t read…read it…done!

  • Scott

    This is a math tip that I taught to myself (I’m sure i’m not the only one) that has paid dividends on being able to do 2 digit multiplication quickly. The steps get more difficult but give you more ability to access a variety of 2-digit multiplication:


    Commit to learning the times table of every 5 multiple square up to 100 (5*5, 10*10, 15*15, 20*20…. 100*100). Most people know the evens ones already (10, 20, 30…) or can compute them on demand quickly (80*80 = 8*8 + “00” = 6400), so this is really only asking to commit to learning 9 computations (15*15…95*95):

    15*15 = 225
    25*25 = 625
    35*35 = 1225
    45*45 = 2025
    55*55 = 3025
    65*65 = 4225
    75*75 = 5625
    85*85 = 7225
    95*95 = 9025

    This alone is very helpful for arriving at very quick estimates (and sometimes exact). If someone asked what 82*85 is (6970), you could throw out 7000 without thinking to get in a quick ballpark knowing 85^2 is 7225 , and get some impressive looks in the process.

    Now that you can get to exact or close to exact numbers on a lot of 2-digit squares, this tip will let you find out exact totals quickly on some 2-digit numbers like 53*57. If you take the average of the two numbers (this is the number that meets both of them in the middle), the product of the two is the average number squared minus the square of the difference from the average.

    Sounds complicated, but it’s not. Take 53 and 55, find out in your head what number meets them in the middle (55) and how far off they are from the middle number (2). Now you know 53 * 57 is the same thing as 55^2 – 2^2! And since you know 55^2 from step 1, you will arrive at 3021 in a a few seconds!

    More examples:

    39 * 41 = 40^2 – 1^1 = 1599 (in fact any two numbers that are +1 and -1 from a square you know, just subtract 1, like 89*91 = 8099 (8100 – 1).

    43*57 ??? That’s just 2500 – 49, 2451.

    Of course there are many two digit combinations that you won’t be able to find the exact number for quickly with these steps (e.g. 92*77), but you should in a few seconds be able to know that 7100 is in the close ballpark (again, step 2 tells us that 92 * 77 is the same as 84.5^2 – (4.5)^2, and you don’t have to do that equation to know that you are pretty close to 85^2 which you know is 7225.

    Hope this was helpful!

    Extra tip that requires a little more math on the fly:
    Now that you know every 0- and 5- ending squares by heart, getting all the 9,1,4, and 6- endings don’t take that much computation. These are all the ones that are one away from the ones you now know (e.g. 41^2 or 66^2). So if you are trying to find a square of a number that is one off from a number you know, remember this rule:

    If you know x^2, then (x-1)^2 always equals x^2 – 2x + 1, and (x+1)^2 = x^2 + 2x + 1

    This rule will look familiar to anyone who has taken algebra, but actually implementing it is much easier than it looks. Some examples:

    To get 39^2, tell yourself: “40^2 is 1600, and I just subtract 2*40 and add 1, so 39^2 is 1520 + 1, 1521!

    86^2 ? Seems tricky at first, but you know 85^2 = 7225, so just add 2 * 85 + 1, or 171, and you’ll get 7396. This one might be one of the toughest to get to, but of course the more you practice the more seamless this will become.

    One more, 64*64…. 4225 – 130 + 1 = 4096!

    • Adam

      If you want to put in slightly less effort, but take maybe a tiny bit longer computing numbers, squares of numbers ending in 5 can be split into two bits: x*(x+1) and 25.

      So, to use a random example, what’s 35^2?
      Ignore the 5. Take the 3 and multiply it by the number one bigger. 3+1 = 4. 3*4 = 12.
      Now, take that 12 and just put a 25 on the end.
      35^2 = 1225.

      Try another. 75^2 = [7*8][25] = 5625
      You can even go bigger than 100 (although things like 735^2 will require two-digit calculation to work out what 73*74 is).
      125^2 = [12*13][25] = 15625

  • suzanne

    every 10min I spend on Wikipedia…

  • evanpelt

    Learn how to fold a fitted sheet.

    This works with even deep pocket ones, and it folds down to a beautiful compact rectangle.

    Find two adjacent corners (make sure the sheet isn’t twisted). Put your index finger in the pocket, into the corner point in both corners. Bring your index fingers together. From inside of one of the corners, pinch and grab the other corner, then fold the pinched corner over the other side (the corners will be nested, one inside the other, and the elastic from both corners will be next to each other).

    Find another corner, again, making sure the sheet isn’t twisted, and add that corner to the other two, so you have 3 nested (all the elastic should be on one side). Grab the last corner and add it to the rest. (Or you can nest two adjacent corners, then the other two, and then put the two on two).

    Find a flat spot and lay the sheet down, elastic side up. It should be fairly rectangular, and the fitted, elastic sections of the sheet should be forming an L shape (if not, adjust it so it does). The long side with elastic should be closest to you.

    Make a 1/3 fold of the long elastic side towards the center, then flap over the other 1/3. (Folding the elastic side in first will give you a neater, flatter, end product)

    One end of the narrow folded sheet will be bulkier where the elastic is on the short end. Fold that end 1/3 of the way in, then flap over the last 1/3.

    You should have a folded rectangle pretty much the same size as your folded flat sheet.

    Learn this, and you will save room in your linen cupboard for the rest of your life.

  • Leonardo Carneiro

    Learn to use use the private mode on modern browsers, or at least to clear your browser history, for those more old fashioned.

    Ctrl+Shift+n on Chrome or Ctrl+Shift+p on Firefox. Both will open new windows where you can browse and leave no trace of what kind of porn you were watching. GREAT =D

    Ctrl+Shift+Delete on most browsers will give some options to erase recent history also, in case you forgot to open the private mode.

    Despite these techniques erase their trail of your browsing habits of this session on this computer, a monitored network, like your the one at your company or
    the whole US can still record this data on servers.

  • Tierra

    Learn how to clean your house/bathroom in 10 minutes flat.
    Baby wipes or Clorox wipes are a breeze in the bathroom (for sinks and toilets!)
    Keep your sink full of soapy water to throw dirty dishes in. Cuts down on cleaning time and saves water by not running while washing.
    Keep baskets handy in your living room/den to throw random things in until you have the time to put them away!

  • june2

    Meditate. No mantra or anything, just quiet the mind and focus on breathing calmly for 10 mins. When I worked in an ultra stressful office 20 yrs ago, I’d find an empty room or even a closet, (and a bathroom stall works just as well in a serious situation,ha), to sit in silence for 10 mins (I’d set my phone timer) as many times as I needed to get through the day. It worked so well for me that people commented on my new demeanor and I began starting and ending my day with 10 mins every morning and evening and virtually eliminated stress.

  • You can learn to meditate or to be more tolerant to people you don’t like. If that fails, you can focus on other things like sword fighting or how to kill a man with a single punch or without leaving any trace.

  • Ekanshdeep Gupta

    I have scrolled through a lot many answers teaching basic stuff life tying shoelaces, or changing tires, but was surprised to not find a single post related to computer, which form such a vital part in our modern lives.

    I might be really late but for what it’s work, here goes-

    PS: I am a Windows user so that is what I’m going to address, Mac and Linux users are welcome to add tips for their own native OS’s.

    1. Learn to program a shutdown after some predetermined time. Useful when you’re going somewhere and cannot afford to shut down that download/process that has been going on for quite some time now, but don’t want your computer up and running for all the time you’re gonna be away.

    Press Windows Key + R to open Run dialog box.
    Type ‘cmd’ (without quotes) to open Command Prompt. That is the black coloured screen generally associated with programmers and nerds.
    In it, type this:
    shutdown /s /f /t xx

    Replace xx with the number of seconds you want the computer running for. For example, if I want the computer to shutdown after an hour, I’d type “shutdown /s /f /t 3600”
    Here, s is for shutdown, f is to force it to shutdown, so that some process cannot interrupt it. And t is for time, followed by the number of seconds. It’s quite simple, really!

    2. Learn to use Ping, to figure out if internet is working or not. Useful when you have an unstable connection as the notification bar icon is not really very efficient at conveying connectivity.

    Open command prompt (see above).
    Type “ping google.com”. What ping does is it sends a little packet of information to google (Use whichever site you prefer). It then shows whether it receives a reply form Google in return. If it does, it shows Reply form [IP Address]… The details are not really important. If it shows a “Reply from…” it means the internet is working. Otherwise it shows “Request Timed Out” or “General Failure” etc.

    3. If you quickly want to open Microsoft Word without having to go into start menu, or using your mouse, press Winows Key + R, type “Winword”, and Enter. For a calculator, type “calc”. To open My Computer, type “explorer” [Alternatively you could simply press Windows Key + E, without having to go through the Run Dialog box].

    Etc. You can also learn to use things like Safe Mode, Windows Restore, and whatnot. It helps in basic Computer Troubleshooting, and you don’t have to go through a lot of trouble for fixing simple things, just google it and somewhere on the internet you’ll find a basic solution.

  • Anon

    Ctrl + Shift + T reopens your browser’s last closed tab.

  • sananas

    Handshakes: Palm towards the ground means dominant behaviour and palm upwards means giving away control/subjugation. Always go for the balanced/straight handshake with no angle in either direction.
    If someone offers a dominant handshake try to turn it straight by taking another small step towards the person.

  • themerice

    If tying your shoes takes a little longer than you need or would like, this video might be helpful.


    If you tried it and are still having trouble (like I did) –

    Rotate your *left* finger and thumb *under* the left lace.

    And rotate your *right* finger and thumb *over and under* the right lace.

    That’s the way I got it to work, at least. 🙂

    • Steven McDonald

      That does make tying your shoes look awesome, but it is still the weak form of the bow knot.


      We have all been doing it incorrectly this whole time. I’ve made the switch and have never looked back.

      • Nathan McDonald

        You can actually apply both. The strong knot is like a reef knot, the weak like a granny knot. You just need to alternate direction/twist half way through the knot to get the strong type. In the TED video he does this by changing the direction when we tie the top loop, but could just as easily change the base loop. In the refinery29 video, can either change the base loop, or mirror the finger positioned used.

  • RedSusanno

    Learn a new word everyday…by the end of the year, you’ll have 365 new words in your vocabulary…

    • RedSusanno

      Only if you put in the whole ten minutes to absorb every word every day…

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